Seminar – Cultivating Fraud: How Imperial Agents Harvested Anti-Ottoman Knowledge and its Consequences on the Islamic World

24 do
24 november 2022


The British, Italian, Spanish, French and American Empires adopted an array of contradictory policies towards their respective Muslim subjects scattered throughout the world. As they managed often conflicting agendas that targeted Muslim polities with still strong associations with the Ottoman Empire, a growing repertoire of intelligence gathering and academic “knowledge” production informed these relations at the turn of the 20th Century. Strategies that sought to recruit potentially key socio-economic, cultural, religious, and political allies implicated many who originated from within the Ottoman Empire. By the turn-of-the-century, Britain, Italy, Spain, France and the United States all sought to expand their influence among these previously recruited clients. In the case of Britain, the outbreak of the Great War produced a number of reliable alliances with Arab/Muslim intellectuals based in Cairo and India. Likewise, their strategic partnerships with various merchant-cum-political leaders in Ottoman territories availed to France and Italy leverage over their Muslim subjects throughout Africa. The Spanish and United States’ imperial administrations engaged Ottoman subjects in the South China Sea islands, inhabited by Muslim polities often violently resisting their rule. The lecture will shed light on the consequences of these cultivated alliances that effectively induced dissent, turmoil, revolt, and structural transition. The intersecting histories of cooperation/alliance-making and resistance in three distinctive areas formally resisting foreign administration will be read comparatively within the larger context of modern empires facing disparate and contradictory challenges from local responses to the contingencies created by war. As these events regularly upset imperialist/capitalist ambitions, they demand that historians focus on a multiplicity of factors contributing to the modern world’s (dis)order including the complex relations Ottoman subjects had with the larger world.


Isa Blumi (Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Stockholm University) researches societies in the throes of social, economic, and political transformation. He compares how European imperialist projects in the Islamic world intersected with, and were thus informed by, events within the Ottoman Empire. His latest work covers the late Ottoman period and successor regimes, arguing that events in the Balkans and Middle East are the engines of change in the larger world. His research into migration as a primary lens to understand such processes have resulted in numerous articles and the books: Ottoman Refugees, 1878-1939: Migration in a Post-Imperial World. (Bloomsbury Academic, 2013) and Destroying Yemen: What Chaos in Arabia tells us about the World (University of California Press, 2018).



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